USGBC Moves to Improve LEED v4
The latest version of LEED, LEED v4, became mandatory a little over a year ago. That was just after the U.S. Green Building Council’s 2016 Greenbuild conference. This year at Greenbuild, USGBC announced that it is fast-tracking development of a new iteration, LEED v4.1.
“LEED v4 has been out a long time,” says Corey Enck, director of LEED technical development at USGBC, told BuildingGreen. LEED v4’s development path started in 2009 and eventually stretched through six public comment periods and a beta program that began in 2013, before the system became mandatory in 2016 (see LEED 2012 Postponed to 2013, Renamed LEED v4). “A lot of the things we wrote into that need a bit of a refresh,” says Enck. “We need to make sure that LEED is still relevant and is still the leadership standard.”
According to Enck, the refresh will start with the operations and maintenance (O+M) standard before addressing building design and construction (BD+C). USGBC hopes to release v4.1 drafts of both systems in the first quarter of 2018 and immediately open them for piloting by LEED projects.
“That real-world experience will give us the feedback we need,” says Enck, adding that he anticipates a public comment period after six to twelve months of piloting.
Continued focus on performance, with Arc
The focus of LEED v4 has been building performance, and Enck said that would continue with LEED v4.1. “We want to make sure that LEED certified buildings are performing as expected,” he said. “Also, that if you earn a LEED credit that you’re receiving the environmental benefit and outcomes that were desired.”
USGBC and its certification partner Green Business Certification Inc. have been heavily promoting their technology platform, Arc, as a tool for LEED certification (see New Tech Startup, Arc Skoru, to Support USGBC, GBCI with Data), so it’s no surprise that Arc will feature more heavily in LEED v4.1.
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“Arc provides that platform to start to measure those key metrics that we need,” explained Enck. “For BD+C we would like to reference Arc as the platform where you can track your ongoing performance, and where you can start to pursue ongoing certification.” Enck also noted that Arc, LEED BD+C, and LEED O+M in some cases use different metrics, and LEED v4.1 is an opportunity to align those. “O+M v4.1 will see the most amount of change,” he said. “With 4.1 we will embed Arc and the performance scores into O+M more directly to try to streamline the O+M rating system.”
Arc scores projects from interior spaces to cities using proprietary algorithms. It has been criticized for lack of transparency, even as more projects become certified by using Arc as a “performance path.” Enck noted that the v4.1 effort “also gives an opportunity to public comment and ballot the performance scores within Arc.”
Changes to credits
Expect changes throughout LEED v4, especially to credits that have proven difficult or outright unachievable to project teams. Enck previewed the following ideas, however:
- The ASHRAE 90.1 energy standard referenced in LEED’s energy prerequisite and credit is likely to be updated from the 2010 to the 2013 version. In addition, USGBC is considering raising the bar across the board in a more rigorous way on carbon emissions, sparked in part by a blog post on LEEDuser by Greg Kats. (Enck noted that in this, as in other areas, USGBC would carefully balance leadership on environmental imperatives with likelihood of market adoption.)
- The low-emitting materials credit is likely to be streamlined. “There has been market transformation” to support achievement of this credit, “but the calculations are quite hard,” acknowledges Enck.
- The building product disclosure and optimization (BPDO) credits are likely to see some changes to put them more in reach. As recently chronicled by BuildingGreen, several options within these three key materials credits are virtually unachievable.
In other changes, USGBC is looking at combining the various LEED for Homes rating systems (including regular LEED for Homes as well as Mid-Rise) into LEED Residential. It is also considering streamlining LEED for Neighborhood Development and linking it with LEED for Cities / Communities (see D.C. Goes Platinum In First LEED for Cities Certification).
There’s a rule of thumb that a project on track to achieve one level in the older LEED 2009 rating system, can expect its certification to step down one level in LEED v4. (This is the case both in credit achievability and cost, as reviewed in BuildingGreen’s Cost of LEED v4 report.) Asked if this might change, Enck said, “Projects that pursue v4.1 will likely be better projects than those that pursue v4. They will be higher performing because they will now have more credits they can pursue that will be on the table.” How will that shake out in points achieved? “For v4.1 you might have to stretch more on energy, but you’ll have other credits in reach as well,” says Enck.
Stuart Kaplow of the Green Building Law Update has also reported on LEED v4.1.